The positive impact of developing new habits during COVID lock-down
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Have you been looking at your social media feed during lock-down and asking “when did everyone become a baker?” You could be forgiven if you have - it’s safe to say that proving sourdough loaves has risen to be one of the more popular posts online this year.
With the increased time at home, and the dramatic reduction in social outings, many people have found themselves with more time than they know what to do with. Some have turned to baking or crafting, others are finally getting round to those home improvement tasks they always meant to do at weekends. Yet, there is a group of us, who have enjoyed that tiger documentary and making viral TikTok videos (or trying to...), that is left thinking that our productivity during the COVID Crisis has been somewhat low.
It is only natural to look in on what others have been up to when they have been at home and compare achievements, social media was helping us do that just fine without lock-down. So, while we have become more familiar with our own homes and a quieter existence, there is the opportunity to reflect on the lifestyle we are leading, and how close it is to the life we imagined for ourselves. Rather than comparing ourselves to others, the chance we have to take time to look inward is a big one, and it is well worth taking.
While there is nothing revolutionary in self improvement, when we take the time to break down what we are trying to achieve and set small habits in motion, we can affect positive change to our lifestyle.
To illustrate the impact of new habits, consider a rocket ready to launch into orbit. It will fly straight upwards at ninety degrees and into space with speed and precision to its destination. Now, for a moment, imagine that same rocket launches two degrees off vertical. It will still leave Earth’s orbit, and its path looks very similar, but the farther it travels, the further away from its original destination. Bringing it back to habits, we too can make a small change and like the rocket, we can completely alter our path.
It can be daunting trying to make a change. The challenge of identifying room for growth or less than healthy habits, which have been part of us for years, can be uncomfortable. Admitting to (not) regularly flossing our teeth is one example - a study in 2016 found nearly 1 in 3 of Americans never give their dental hygiene that level of attention. Now in the lockdown state, 5 minutes in front of the mirror after brushing is something we can all afford and will make us healthier in the long run.
But digging deeper, choosing a new habit that is meaningful for ourselves is just the beginning. So, with the potential to change our heading at a time when we are more available for personal growth, we’ve set out some ideas which can aid developing even the smallest of habits during lock-down.
Selecting your goal
When starting a new habit, focus on something that will make you feel good. That doesn’t mean selecting a goal that will fill your social stream, nor is it about comparing yourself to others, it should be meaningful to only you. Motivation is key here and setting aside some time to think about what you’d like your life to look like is paramount. Is it an active, or healthy, perhaps a more creative existence?
When you dial that down, think about the small actions you know you can take on a regular basis that will feed into this. Ideally, this won’t need lots of new equipment or tools, so the simpler the better. What about reading one chapter or page of that book that you’ve been meaning to pick up? It could be that basic.
Tracking your progress
An important part of developing a new habit, it being accountable to yourself. By tracking your progress each day, you will have a reference point for your success. Jerry Seinfeld set out to write something funny each day and soon had a chain of X’s in his calendar marking his accomplishment which he called his chain. The aim there is simple - don’t break the chain. Of course, there is an app for that, but you can just as easily create a chain with paper and a pen which is kept somewhere visible to you each day.
While 21 days is widely discussed as the length of time it takes to embed a new habit, don’t get bogged down with this idea. The effort to do something each day even for a week can’t be underestimated, so start there and allow your success to motivate you further.
Whatever the method you choose to track your habits, make the time to reflect on how successful you were. It can be as little as a few minutes at the end of the week looking at your chain, or even adding more small changes that you are working on a second or third action.
Inevitably, there will be some days where you forget, or motivation has dipped. Don’t look at this with negativity, there is an opportunity here to ask, why didn’t that work out? Maybe you aren’t ready to tackle something independently and the lock-down measures are hindering your progress. Maybe it isn’t what you are passionate about. That is the beauty of now, it’s our time to look inwards and take a step towards something for ourselves.
Just remember, whether you’re striving for the perfect sourdough, or looking to improve your hip mobility, the little steps will always have a positive impact in the long run. So hold the course - it’s your rocket and it’s your lock-down. For more tips check out these simple tips for improving your day or this article with tips for leading a balanced life.